For close to 40 years, skiers, riders and employees of Eldora Mountain Resort have been able to jump onto RTD’s Route NB at Downtown Boulder Station and travel up Highway 119 to reach their beloved local mountain, with stops along the canyon and in Nederland. Last year, this best-kept transportation secret was given a shoutout in the Warren Miller film “Timeless,” which affirmed that locals depend on and appreciate the service.
As has been the case across the RTD system, COVID-19 has introduced changes to Route NB, restricting vehicle capacity from 55 pre-pandemic to no more than 20 people, to maintain social distancing onboard. Monday through Saturday, the agency is now providing what had been a Saturday level of service before COVID-19. The Sunday schedule remains the same. The first trip departs Boulder at 6:10 a.m. each day.
In addition, RTD will be providing only the scheduled service: six round trips through the canyon each day that reach the resort. During prior winter seasons – say, on powder days – the agency was able to add buses to the route as ridership warranted and as resources were available. That will not be the case this season, with RTD having had to cut service 40% in April. As economic conditions improve, it would be up to the agency’s Board of Directors to decide whether service could be increased.
“RTD staff encourages those who wish to use Route NB to Eldora to have alternative transportation options to and from the resort,” said Nataly Handlos, lead service planner and scheduler for RTD. “We will not be able to guarantee additional trips on Route NB to address potential overloads, due to RTD’s severe resource challenges."
Travelers who ride the NB to Eldora should anticipate an afternoon rush on the 3:13 p.m., 4:13 p.m. and 5:13 p.m. eastbound trips leaving the resort – the last of the day. Arranging for a different way home, such as a rideshare, is recommended.
Current ridership on this route is about one-quarter of what it was pre-pandemic, with most customers being Nederland residents. The Nederland Park-n-Ride is the busiest eastbound stop; the busiest in the opposite direction is Downtown Boulder Station. About 80 Eldora guests and staff members rode the bus to access the resort on an average weekday at the beginning of the year, before COVID-19.
The need to plan ahead will be crucial for those who intend to visit the resort. The coming winter season will look different not just for RTD, but also for Eldora, which is implementing a new parking reservation system. The resort has already shared information about operational changes its guests can expect to see when it opens Nov. 23.
“RTD is a fantastic partner for Eldora, and its regular bus service to and from Eldora certainly makes our mountain unique among Colorado ski resorts,” says Brent Tregaskis, Eldora’s president and general manager. “Because COVID-19 has impacted RTD’s service capability, we ask Eldora guests who typically depend on the NB route to plan on other ways to visit this winter, and to bear in mind that Eldora will be requiring parking reservations to be made ahead of time in order to limit visitation to the resort and keep our guests and employees safe.”